An Overview of Cocaine Use and Treatment
Cocaine is a harmful substance that gives you a fast jolt of energy, but it has a high addiction potential that makes it hard to stop. Some people use it to get more work done, while others simply enjoy the feeling. Regardless of what brings you to using cocaine, the good news is that there are ways to recover.
We will cover the signs and symptoms of cocaine use, its health effects, what the withdrawal process feels like, and cocaine treatment options. This will give you a good idea of what to expect once you’re ready to stop using.
Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Use
There are many signs and symptoms that show whether someone is using cocaine. Some of these symptoms can only be felt by those using cocaine, while others are easy to observe by others. While there are other substances that might have similar symptoms, cocaine should be on your radar if you are noticing these signs.
Someone using cocaine may feel:
• Energetic and upbeat
• Moderate to severe irritation
• Paranoia and feelings of persecution
• Sensitivity to sensations such as light, sound, and touch
Then there are physical signs and symptoms of cocaine use. These are observable to other people, but the user will experience them directly. These symptoms include:
• High blood pressure
• Higher body temperature
• Dilated pupils that won’t go back to normal easily
• Reduced appetite and difficulty eating
• Rapid heartbeat that gets worse with further use
• Erratic and worrying behavior
If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms frequently from cocaine use, or if you see someone else going through this, then it might be a good idea to seek treatment in order to reduce or stop your use. This can help you get back to a healthier lifestyle while also learning how to cope with your stressors.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
Some people use cocaine for a little while and then either stop or start using another substance. Then, there are those who use cocaine for many years as it’s their drug of choice.
Unlike some other substances, cocaine can be used in many different ways. It can be snorted, smoked, injected, or even consumed orally. While all of these cause the high energy feeling that people like about cocaine, they each have their own unique consequences as they affect your body in different ways. The following covers the long-term effects based on how the cocaine is used.
Long-term effects of snorting cocaine:
• Reduced smell or loss of smell
• Frequent runny nose
• Nosebleeds that become more frequent
• Difficulties swallowing
Long-term effects of smoking cocaine:
• Frequent and severe coughing
• Chronic asthma or asthma-like symptoms
• Respiratory distress and difficulty breathing
• Higher risk of lung infections such as pneumonia
Long-term effects of injecting cocaine:
• Higher risk of HIV
• Higher risk of hepatitis C
• Skin injections around the injection site
• Scarred and collapsed veins
Long-term effects of consuming cocaine:
• Severe bowel damage and decay
• Reduced blood flow to the bowels and stomach
• Diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain
If you use cocaine in two or more ways, then you can experience symptoms from several categories. It’s also possible that you’ll see some of these effects after short-term use. They usually won’t be as bad then, but they will grow in severity.
Symptoms of a Cocaine Overdose
Cocaine has a relatively short half-life compared to other substances. This means that the effects diminish quickly, and it processes out of your body faster than other substances. That being said, you can still overdose on it. This is especially true if you keep taking large quantities during a prolonged session.
The symptoms of any drug overdose make it difficult to get medical services yourself. If you begin feeling like you took too much, then it’s essential that you get emergency medical services immediately. If you know someone is taking cocaine and they experience these symptoms, then you should also call emergency medical services.
The most common cocaine overdose symptoms include:
• Severe trouble breathing
• Significant chest pain and tightening
• Vomiting and nausea
• Severe confusion and tremors
• Moderate to severe anxiety
• Severe panic
• Paranoia that may be delusional
Some people believe that only certain drugs have withdrawal symptoms. The truth is that nearly any substance has some symptoms because your body has to adjust to functioning without it. This is especially true if you have used it for many years and have used a significant amount.
You might be wondering what withdrawal looks like. The common cocaine withdrawal symptoms include:
• Depressed mood and low energy
• Restlessness and agitated behavior
• Fatigue and lethargy
• Discomfort and inability to relax
• Increased appetite, or reduced appetite in some people
• Unpleasant and vivid dreams
These are the symptoms specifically for cocaine use, but there are some withdrawal symptoms common to any substance use. Suicidal thoughts may come up as it might feel too difficult to live without substances. Be sure to have a hotline ready during this time. Also, have your supports around you, and go to the nearest hospital if you feel serious about hurting yourself.
Cravings are also very dangerous during this time. Cravings can be strong, and they might come on suddenly. It’s actually quite common for people to face an overdose at this time. The intense cravings will make you want to use more, but your tolerance has already started to decrease. This leads to significant problems.
Another symptom can be reduced feelings of euphoria if you do use it. Many people at this stage just feel paranoid and fearful. Use continues because it seems normal to the body, but it’s no longer pleasant.
Cocaine Rehab & Treatment Options
There are many options for cocaine addiction treatment. This basically breaks down to various levels of care that ensure you have enough therapy to match your needs. Some people might just need outpatient therapy, while others might need something higher.
Many people are curious about what cocaine addiction treatment looks like. We are going to break down the different levels of care along with a medical detox program.
Medical Detox Program for Cocaine
While some people try to face withdrawal symptoms on their own, a medical detox program is often more effective. This is a program that gives you extra support while the cocaine is metabolizing out of your body.
As we described above, there are numerous symptoms that occur as you are detoxing. The withdrawal symptoms range from simply uncomfortable to significant and possibly dangerous. While a medical detox program cannot completely stop these symptoms, it can help you get through them easier.
You will be under the care of a doctor who will watch over your symptoms. They will then prescribe medications as needed to make it easier. This has a higher chance of succeeding when compared to trying to detox on your own.
The first level of care is outpatient therapy. This can be helpful with mild addictions or if you’re stepping down from a higher level of care. While it might be the first level of care, you’re still getting a significant amount of therapy.
Outpatient therapy differs slightly for each establishment. At Defining Wellness Centers, we define outpatient therapy as two 90-minute groups per week along with one individual session. You may need less therapy as you progress, but we typically find that clients do best with the group and individual sessions.
These groups help you check in and learn some skills for stress modulation. The individual sessions give you a place to explore your inner world to see what needs to change in order for you to recover.
The next level of care is intensive outpatient or IOP. This is still an outpatient level of care, but it increases your clinical hours to 10 per week. IOP consists of three group sessions that are each three hours. You then also have one individual or family session, depending on which is best for your situation.
While a three-hour group might sound long, the time goes quickly as you meet with peers, discuss each other’s struggles, and learn together as you all recover. A trained clinician will guide the group towards recovery and change.
Much like outpatient therapy, this is often used as one of the lower levels of care or to step down from a higher level. It gives you a safety net and an adequate treatment team in order to make your way on the road to recovery.
Partial Hospitalization Program
A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is a step up from IOP but not quite inpatient yet. This is another program that differs slightly depending on the establishment, but we define PHP as 30 clinical hours per week.
This is good for those who are actively using and struggling to stop, have long-term addictions, or find it difficult to stop without further support. This level of care allows you to get support five days out of the week for six hours each day. You will be participating in group and individual therapy along with receiving medical attention.
While you are receiving a significant amount of clinical attention, many people like how they can go home at night to sleep in their own beds and speak with their friends and family members. If your environment is supportive, then this mix of receiving extra clinical care and still going home can be very beneficial.
Inpatient treatment, also known as residential treatment, is one of the highest levels of care as it ensures that you have around-the-clock therapy and medical support. This is very similar to PHP in a way. You will attend group and individual therapy during the day. You will also be assigned a doctor to watch over your medical health as you detox.
The major difference between residential and PHP is the amount of time you spend at the facility. Unlike PHP, where you go home at night, you will stay at the facility for inpatient care. This might be scary to some people, but it can be very beneficial.
For many people, their environments can be stressful, and access to substances can be easy. This is especially true if people use it in your household. Inpatient care gets you away from all that so that you can focus on yourself. Many clients find that this is the first time they have been given this opportunity. Inpatient treatment will be followed by lower levels of care until you are able to be successfully discharged.
Another component of cocaine addiction treatment is attending self-help groups. Some people find these very useful as they give you another space to connect with others who understand your struggles.
There are many 12 Step groups in the area that can help. While the most common 12 Step groups are Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, or AA and NA, there is also Cocaine Anonymous or CA. All of these groups can be beneficial for you.
If you like the self-help format but don’t see 12 Step groups helping you, then there are 12 Step alternatives. This includes SMART Recovery, SOS, Women for Sobriety, Moderation Management, and more.
Reach Out for Help Today
There is hope for recovering from cocaine use. Whether you have a mild addiction or a severe one, we can provide the support you need to begin recovering and getting back to your life. We at Defining Wellness Centers provide many of the services you need to get better. From various levels of care to medical attention while detoxing, we are here to help get you back on track. Contact us today, and let’s work toward creating a better life for you.